Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
Recently, real ancient custom and tradition was on display in Amichi in Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra, when the community held its New Yam festival called Ikpo Ji.
Just like in most Igbo communities; no one eats or sells new yam in the land or any of the markets in the community until the Ezeana performs the Ikpo Ji rituals.
Aware that yam is regarded as the king of the crops, to justify their reverence for it; Amichi people devote three days every year to celebrate new yam.
First is the Ikpo Ji, which is the presentation of the new yam harvested in the land to the gods and that is done by the Ezeana who attends to the spirits in Amichi.
After the Ikpo Ji festival, it will be the turn of the traditional ruler on another date to perform the Iwa Ji/Iri Ji ceremony which used to be a more elaborate event for the entire community as the people use the ceremony to pay homage to the monarch and sometimes the traditional ruler will confer chieftaincy titles on some selected individuals in and outside the community.
Indigenes of the community will after the traditional ruler had performed the Iri Ji ceremony organize their family or private new yam celebrations depending on the depth of their pockets and popularity.
A lover of culture and Okwuaka Amichi, Chief Maja Umeh is one man who has over the years organised private new yam celebrations in the community to the point that his programme most times appears more popular than even the community event.
This year was not an exception, as the Ezeana Amichi, Ichie Gabriel Umeoha assisted by Ezeana Geoffrey Chukwujekwu performed the Ikpo Ji rituals at the Eke Amichi.
The ceremony which did not last more than an hour saw the Ezeanas accompanied by mostly traditional people march from the town hall to the Ezumezu at Eke Amichi (market square) and at intervals; they paused and blew their flute (Odu) to the admiration of the people, many of whom were guests from outside the community.
At the Eke Amichi market square, the Ezeodinani Ndi Igbo, Ezeana Umeoha, Ezeana Chukwujekwu and other traditionalists sat in front of the Osisi Eke Amichi, facing the Eke Amichi which is the main feminine deity of the community and performed the ceremony.
After the usual blessing of the kola nut, the Ezeana brought out one big tuber of yam from his big bag and presented it to the gods saying that it was the yam he harvested from his farm. He thanked the gods for giving the people life and making their crops yield bountifully. At juncture, he lifted the yam three times, made some incantations and passed it to Ezeana Chukwujekwu who repeated the same process.
Immediately, the two Ezeanas stood up and blew their flute, then the Ezeana Umeoha prayed to the gods to protect and prosper the people and he blessed them bringing the brief and spectacular ceremony to a close.
The second phase of the ceremony however, continued at the town hall with entertainment and free speeches which also gave the Ezeana opportunity to advice the young men of the community to desist from smoking marijuana otherwise called Indian hemp and other hard drugs so to be useful to their families and the society at large.
Back at the Obi of the Ezeana, people came to pay homage especially traditionalists from within and outside Amichi.
One of those who paid homage was a member of the Odinani of Anaedo ancestral clan, from Nnewi, Chief Kenneth Anoliefo, who came with a colorful dancing troupe.
In a brief interview, he charged Ndigbo to always protect, preserve and promote their rich cultural heritage.